On the occasion of your naming. February 27, 2015.
Peninsula Temple Beth El, San Mateo, California
Sela Penina Mason-Barkin, or Penina Selah in Hebrew.
A big name for a very, very little girl. But we know that no matter how small you are now, you will grow into this name — this name that was so carefully chosen for you.
Sela Penina, you are named for two very strong, intelligent, loving, and beautiful women.
Your first name, Sela, is for your GG – your Great- Grandma Selma. Sela, you are your GG’s sixteenth great-grandchild, so we know exactly how much she would have loved to meet you. Just like she loved meeting your cousins and your big brother, watching you play would have made her blue eyes twinkle and when we placed you on her lap, I know she would have chuckled deeply.
In her absence, we have given you a name that not only sounds like hers but that we also hope will inspire you live up to some of her most special qualities.
Your GG possessed a quiet strength and a grace that allowed her live an incredible and full life, even after the death of your great grandpa, Carl. At her funeral, many spoke about the ways that she contributed to her husband’s business success – and how in another day and age she would have been running the store herself. Well my little Sela, here you are – in another day and age. I know that it wouldn’t matter to your GG what your passion comes to be – whether you find yourself loving writing or music or math: but it would matter to her that you put your whole self into it. This is our wish for your, too.
Another enduring lesson from your GG that we hope you will always take to heart is the importance of family. Your GG made it a priority to make sure that family always got together, and really got to know one another. You have already begun to live this without even knowing it, when you welcomed two of your big cousins to come visit you when you were still in the hospital. Your brother Charlie and all your big cousins Zachy, Eliza, Aviva and Caleb already love you so much – and you have so much to learn from them. Your GG would have loved to know how important they already are to you, and our hope for you is that family will always come first – and that you will always make this a priority.
Your middle name, Penina, is for your Great Grandmother, Ina. We find the letters of her name at the end of yours. Your Great Grandmother was also a source of strength for her family and force in her community. She was a Dean at Clark University and valued education and learning for herself and for her family. If your Great Grandmother was still here, she would want to play scrabble with you, teach you three syllable words, and talk with you about current events. As you strive to reach your big dreams, we hope you do so with a thirst for knowledge and love of learning that would make your great-grandmother so proud.
Your great-grandmother was very cerebral, but also appreciated beauty and detail. One of her most wonderful qualities that I, unfortunately, did not inherit, was to set a beautiful table and host a gorgeous holiday meal. She always hosted with pleasure and beauty. Whether or not you love to cook, we hope that you will always strive for balance between the intellectual and the aesthetic. We want you to find beauty everywhere you look, just as we see beauty when we look at you.
Sela Penina, or Penina Selah in Hebrew:
Penina in Hebrew means Pearl. Your great-grandmother Ina had terrific taste in jewelry, and a few years ago she gave me a beautiful pearl necklace of hers, which will someday be yours. When I wear it, I think about not only the beauty of the pearls, but about the pearls of wisdom that your great grandmother would share as she tried her best to help me in the kitchen, as she set a beautiful table, or as she quizzed me on the meaning of a new word.
Selah in Hebrew means Rock. Just a few months ago, at your GG’s funeral, we remembered her lovingly as ‘the rock’ of our family. She kept us all, and continues to keep us all together as she heads the family with her loving strength. In the book of Deuteronomy, God is described as nursing Israel with dvash miselah, honey from a rock. Like your GG, a rock is strong. It is steadfast and withstands much. But like you, and like your GG, this imagery shows us a rock filled with honey: a rock that is sweet, a rock performing an act of love. This describes your GG to a tee, and so too may you be as strong as you are sweet.
Our little Sela Penina, Penina Selah, we realize these names are a lot to live up to for a little tiny baby. But there are no two women more deserving of a namesake as precious as you. Welcome to the world, we are so proud to be your parents.
Mom and Dad
It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the ’70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting. One very thorough study of “children’s independent mobility,” conducted in urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods in the U.K., shows that in 1971, 80 percent of third-graders walked to school alone. By 1990, that measure had dropped to 9 percent, and now it’s even lower. When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn’t true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost—and gained—as we’ve succumbed to them?